If the devil tells you….


“I know the Unknown God,” said the little priest, with an unconscious grandeur of certitude that stood up like a granite tower. “I know his name; it is Satan. The true God was made flesh and dwelt among us. And I say to you, wherever you find men ruled merely by mystery, it is the mystery of iniquity. If the devil tells you something is too fearful to look at, look at it. If he says something is too terrible to hear, hear it. If you think some truth unbearable, bear it. I entreat your Grace to end this nightmare now and here at this table.”

“If I did,” said the Duke in a low voice, “you and all you believe, and all by which alone you live, would be the first to shrivel and perish. You would have an instant to know the great Nothing before you died.”

“The Cross of Christ be between me and harm,” said Father Brown. “Take off your wig.”

I was leaning over the table in ungovernable excitement; in listening to this extraordinary duel half a thought had come into my head. “Your Grace,” I cried, “I call your bluff. Take off that wig or I will knock it off.”

I suppose I can be prosecuted for assault, but I am very glad I did it. When he said, in the same voice of stone, “I refuse,” I simply sprang on him. For three long instants he strained against me as if he had all hell to help him; but I forced his head until the hairy cap fell off it. I admit that, whilst wrestling, I shut my eyes as it fell.

I was awakened by a cry from Mull, who was also by this time at the Duke’s side. His head and mine were both bending over the bald head of the wigless Duke. Then the silence was snapped by the librarian exclaiming: “What can it mean? Why, the man had nothing to hide. His ears are just like everybody else’s.”

“Yes,” said Father Brown, “that is what he had to hide.”

-G. K. Chesterton, The Purple Wig, The Wisdom of Father Brown, 1913

Read the rest of the story online: The Purple Wig

Read the lecture: The Wisdom of Father Brown (Ahlquist )


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